ARLINGTON -- A day removed from Texas' harrowing late-game collapse in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, the fate of the Rangers -- and perhaps that of the entire best-of-seven set -- rested squarely on starter Colby Lewis' right arm.And in front of a packed crowd of 50,362 at Rangers Ballpark, the 31-year-old Lewis -- whose professional career has taken more ups and downs than any ride at the nearby Six Flags amusement park -- came out on top. "He gave us exactly what we needed," manager Ron Washington saw of Lewis, who helped steer a resilient Rangers squad to Saturday's 7-2 win. They now head to New York for three games with the series tied at 1. "I always said, if he can command his ball, keep them out of too many offensive counts, that he would do well," Washington added. "And he certainly did."
Much like Game 1 starter C.J. Wilson, Lewis came out firing against a dangerous, veteran-laden New York lineup. Lewis struck out New York captain Derek Jeter to open the game and retired the side in order on nine pitches, a fitting beginning to a start that frequently sent the home crowd to its feet and ended with a rousing ovation."We didn't get together and talk or anything like that. I think we just knew what we needed to do," Lewis said of the Rangers' mindset entering a pivotal Game 2. "After last night, we just needed to come out today and split it and go back to their place. Plain and simple." Lewis used an equally uncomplicated approach in holding the defending World Series champions to just two runs -- one of which came from MVP-hopeful Robinson Cano's homer -- over 5 2/3 innings. Showcasing improved command from a five-walk outing in the AL Division Series, Lewis relied on location and an impressive four-pitch arsenal -- including a sharp curve -- to keep the Yankees off balance. "He does what you're supposed to do as a starting pitcher," said manager Joe Girardi, who watched his starter, Phil Hughes, do everything but. "[Lewis has] got four weapons that he can go to, and he mixes well." Making just his second career postseason start, Lewis proved Rangers president Nolan Ryan right: With experience comes expertise. The right-hander, who struggled to get third outs in the ALDS against Tampa Bay but pitched five shutout innings, pitched around a two-out double and a walk in the second inning and stranded a pair of Yankees runners again in the third. "I felt the best I probably felt in the last couple of weeks," Lewis said of the six-strikeout outing that came to an end following a two-out walk to Lance Berkman. "Definitely, from the previous start, a lot more nerves were gone for sure. I felt like, you know, I was just going to go out there and do my job." And he did it better than anyone expected, holding former Rangers Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez hitless and collecting a pivotal pair of strikeouts in the fourth to make certain Cano's leadoff double went for naught. Despite being staked to an early lead, Lewis didn't let up, helping the Yankees go 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, with Berkman's RBI single the lone productive hit. He also easily outdueled counterpart Hughes, who saw his 15 1/3 scoreless-innings streak in Arlington snapped with a first-inning run. The Rangers posted seven extra-base hits on Hughes, chasing him from the game after four-plus innings and seven runs. Suffice it to say, the Rangers have the series momentum back. "[Winning Game 2] was just to get right back on track of what we were doing last night," Lewis said. "Get ahead early and kind of put the pressure on them."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.